A well-written, deeply researched, and searingly frank memoir about reproductive health.

THE TIGER AND THE CAGE

A MEMOIR OF A BODY IN CRISIS

A poet chronicles her lifelong struggle with uterine issues and the medical system that never took her seriously.

Bolden’s health problems began early: The third time she got her period, she remembers, her cramping was so intense that it caused her to faint and vomit, sometimes simultaneously. In the following decades, she underwent eight laparoscopic surgeries to relieve her chronic pain, the last of which resulted in an accidentally punctured small bowel, which dangerously exposed her to sepsis. She also lost feeling in her legs and one of her arms due to a herniated disc, a condition she may have acquired from years of taking Lupron, a drug that was once used to treat advanced prostate cancer as well as endometriosis. As Bolden’s health deteriorated, she felt pressure to try to fall in love, get married, and have a child before having a hysterectomy, which became the only viable solution to ending her chronic pain. This process was complicated by the fact that Bolden had never experienced any kind of sexual attraction and suspected that she was asexual. Her struggles were compounded by a medical system staffed with doctors who never really listened to her or took her condition seriously. “Every time a doctor questions what you say, what you experience, what you know, marrow-deep, of your own body. It has its weight, and that weight is fear,” she writes. “It is difficult to trust in your experience of the body when the people you trust to take care of that body deny that your experience is true.” The author’s lyrical descriptions and emotional honesty render this harrowing story hard to put down, and her critique of the medical establishment is both sharp and fair. At times, her forays into stories outside of her personal experience—such as a group of “hysterical” women who were viciously exploited in France in the 18th century—can be distracting.

A well-written, deeply researched, and searingly frank memoir about reproductive health.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-59376-723-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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